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Grace to You - Resource

We're going to return to the gospel of Luke.  I want to stay with Luke as much as possible.  I'd like to finish it, and as the years go by, time gets shorter and this is such a profound and wonderful history of our Lord.  Luke 9.  And in this story that we're looking at today we have the famous event of the feeding of the 5,000, as it is called, really an astonishing event, quantitatively the largest miracle Jesus ever did.

And yet, as massive as it was, involving 5,000 men...and the text uses the word andrizo, which is a term for male, and it's not generic men. When it says 5,000 men it doesn't mean 5,000 people, it means 5,000 males. We would be safe to assume an equal amount of women and perhaps twice that number of children.  There could have been 20,000 people there and He fed them all, creating food.  No miracle that He did was as large, as massive, as vast as that.  Really staggering, absolutely staggering, and yet the world has such little regard for this miracle.

If you were to travel to the land of Israel, as I have many times, you would be privileged to go into the Galilee and wander around the Sea of Galilee. If you looked very, very carefully, if there wasn't someone to guide you there, it would be unlikely that you'd find it, you might locate a little tiny building north of the Sea of Galilee up on one of the slopes and you would walk in and you would notice there was a floor that had been preserved for really over a thousand years.  If you looked down on that floor you'd see there was a little mosaic there in this rather small little place, and that mosaic is a picture of five loaves and two fish.  And it is intended, was intended and still is intended, as old as it is, to mark the event of Jesus feeding the 5,000 men plus women plus children, a massive miracle noted by an absolutely obscure and meager little mosaic, falling apart.  That's all the world really cares about that.

As I was leaving Rome yesterday, it was apparent that there had been a surge of people coming into the city for about a week.  We couldn't figure out what was going on.  There were no hotels available.  Every single room in the city of Rome and all the environs around was occupied.  The place was jammed pack with people.  And we finally found out why.  Two hundred and fifty thousand pilgrims had come to the Vatican.  They had come to the Vatican to honor a man who was to be sainted.  The Vatican is the most massive edifice that you can imagine: not only the St.  Peter's, but the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museum and the Courtyard and all that's around it, the Bank of the Holy Spirit, and all of the other things that are part of the Vatican state, massive tribute to Catholicism.  And these people, along with Italian people surged into the place, 250 thousand coming in, staying in hotels, to celebrate a man.  What had the man done?  Some centuries ago he had discovered that everybody has gifts, not just the priests.  And I said, "Is there a part B?  Are you kidding me?  What do you mean, he read the New Testament?  Of course everyone has gifts," 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, 1 Peter 4. For that 250 thousand people come to acknowledge his spiritual heroics and they're going to make him a saint?

It's amazing to me how religious people are putting the emphasis in the wrong places; so many tributes to the wrong people to non-events.  Certainly within Roman Catholicism things that never happened are treated as if they really happened and become reasons for shrines and all kinds of religious activity.  But here, anyway, on the north shore of Galilee is this tiny little mosaic and it's all there is left really, except the record of the New Testament, to mark a spot where a monumental event took place 2,000 years ago.

Let me read you the text, starting in verse 10.  "When the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all that they had done.  And taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida.  But the multitudes were aware of this and followed Him and welcoming them He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing.  And the day began to decline and the twelve came and said to Him, 'Send the multitude away that they may go in the surrounding villages and countryside, find lodging, get something to eat, for here we are in a desolate place.'  But He said to them, 'You give them something to eat.'  And they said, 'We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless perhaps we go and buy food for all these people,'" sarcastically, "for there were about 5,000 andrizo, men.  And He said to His disciples, 'Have them recline to eating groups of about fifty each.'  And they did so, and had them all recline.  And He took the five loaves and two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them and broke them and kept giving them to the disciples to set before the multitude.  And they all ate and were satisfied.  And the broken pieces which they had left over, was picked up, twelve baskets full."

Isn't it amazing how understated the biblical miracles are?  Where was the miracle?  Well it's at the end of verse 16, "He kept giving them to the disciples."  It doesn't give any sort of fanfare at that point.  He just kept creating food to feed 20,000 plus people till they were all full.  Another display of power, creative power that proves that Jesus was God?  Yes.  It proves that He was the Messiah?  Yes.  But there had been many of those.  In fact, they were basically daily through the three years of His ministry. Most days He did miracles.  And many days He did hundreds of miracles.  There was an escalating surge of miracles going on during the time of His ministry in Galilee. Day after day after day, place after place after place He expressed His amazing divine power over demons, over disease, over death, over nature.  His ability to create was manifest.  And here is the qualitatively most massive miracle and most visible miracle because there's nothing in His hands and then there is, and there's nothing in His hands and there is, and there is, and there is, and there is, and there is, and there is.

Galilee is a small region, fifty miles top to bottom, twenty-five miles side to side and in the middle is a lake that takes up a lot of the space and there's 204 villages crowded around that lake and most of them are on the northern half of the lake.  And so that area where Jesus ministered with Capernaum at His base, which is kind of at the north point of the lake, the word spread everywhere that Jesus was a miracle worker. There was no way to avoid it.  And He had done some...some large scale miracles, like the man, you remember, over in Gerasa who had in him at least 2,000 demons and Jesus had dealt with him.  That's a quantitatively large expression of divine power, to deal with 2,000 or so or more demons.  And everybody knew that He was doing miracles. He was doing them everywhere...everywhere, all the time, day after day, week after week, month after month, place after place.

It was the very region where Jesus had grown up in the town of Nazareth where His family lived, His mother's family, His father's family.  And He had returned there to preach the gospel there.  And the reason He went to Galilee to do most of this was because He was really showing disdain for the religious structure which occupied the southern half of Israel known as Judah, or Judea, where Jerusalem was the capital city and there was the political and spiritual and religious center of the nation Israel. There were the priests and there were the Sanhedrin leaders and the scribes and Pharisees had their headquarters there and the Herodians ran the temple operation.  And Jesus avoided all of that.  He avoided all of that for a number of reasons.  There was a certain amount of judgment in avoiding that.  He was affirming the apostasy of the leadership of Israel; but there was also just the practical reality that if He tried to do this kind of ministry under the noses of the religious establishment, they would have had Him dead long before the time.  It was bad enough that He was doing these things in Galilee. They were already after Him.    If He had been doing them in Judea and Jerusalem, it would have escalated the plan and that wasn't what God had wanted.  So He spent this large amount of time, over a year in the ministry, in Galilee expressing His mighty power.

This is more than a massive miracle, however, as massive as it is.  It's more than a creative miracle, as obviously creative as it is.  And, in fact, I think it's safe to say it's the greatest work of creation since creation.  It's the greatest work of creation since creation.  It's also very important to note this. This is the highpoint of His ministry in Galilee.  He kept the best for last.  He climaxed His ministry in Galilee with the big one.  And after this miracle in Galilee, there is a gradual exit from that region.  This sort of is the apex and from here on it''s downhill.  It's, first of all, He comes, He preaches the gospel, He proves that He is the prophet of God, that He's the Son of God, that He's the Messiah of God by the miracles that He does.  And the miracles grow and they grow and they accumulate and they accumulate and it's as if there's a mounting amount of evidence and finally it reaches this amazing, climactic point where He deals with a man with 2,000 demons and then He deals with a crowd of 20,000 and He creates food for them.  And this is the...this is the great crescendo of His ministry.  This is sort of the culmination of everything, as if to say, "There it is, if you can't believe now, there's nothing else to do."  Any unbelief past this point is willful, obstinate, stubborn, hard-hearted unbelief.  And that's exactly what it was.  There wasn't any more that He could do. He had demonstrated His power to be divine over and over and over, day after day after day after day after day.   But they were so deeply, profoundly steeped in their false religion; they were so willfully blind because of their love of self-righteousness and tradition, that not long after this, about a year, they were screaming for the blood of Jesus because they were there. It was Passover and people of Galilee came to Jerusalem and screamed, "Crucify Him, crucify Him, we're not going to have this man reign over us."

But this was their last great opportunity.  This was the pinnacle.  After this, Jesus actually went to the very limits of the land of Israel, left the area of Galilee and went over to the coast to Tyre and Sidon...Tyre and Sidon. That's recorded in Matthew 15 verse 21.  Then when He was done ministering in Tyre and Sidon, He came back across the north of Galilee and went east of the Sea of Galilee into another area outside Galilee, an area called Decapolis, a Gentile area.  Decapolis means “ten cities,” an area of ten towns, or ten villages.  And after the way, when He was in Decapolis He did another feeding miracle and fed 4,000.  After that He went to Jerusalem and things began to be focused on His coming death.

So the opportunity for Galilee is coming to an end.  Just prior to this miracle, do you remember what He did?  He sent the twelve out, didn't He?  Up to then He had been the only miracle worker and the only preacher of the gospel.  If you wanted a miracle, He had to be there.  If you wanted to hear the gospel, He had to preach it.  But now He's got enough training into the disciples, He sends them out on a short-term mission two by two.  That's the first part of the 9th chapter.  You remember, they went out and He multiplied Himself twelve times.  They did the same miracles He did.  They had power over demons, disease and death.  And they preached the same gospel He preached.  And this was a blitz, the gospel blitz of Galilee.  And even later we're going to find out He's going to send seventy more on a short-term mission for one final effort.  They're going to do miracles and they're going to preach the same gospel as...He picks seventy non-apostolic disciples and sends them with that delegated power, one more opportunity for Galilee.  And in conjunction with this blitz of Galilee comes this massive miracle so that there is no argument about who He is.

The year is 29 A.D. if you calculate back from our calendar today. It's in the spring.  We know because there was green grass.  And Israel is like California. In the spring there's green grass naturally, and the rest of the time there's not.  It was also Passover.  John tells us this miracle happened during Passover, and Passover is in March and April in the spring.  And so it was spring in Galilee but it was winter in the hearts of the people.  Even though the Lord had done these miracles and the accumulation of those miracles made any conclusion other than He was God impossible, rationally they were still in unbelief.  He does this one final explosive miracle to remove any mingling doubt.  Back in verse 9, Herod asked the question, who is this man?  Who is this man?  That question should have been answered if it was still being asked by this miracle. Certainly the disciples had the answer.  When the miracle was over, verse 20, Jesus said to the disciples, the apostles, "Who do you say that I am?"  Peter answering for all of them said, "You're the Christ of God.”  You're the Anointed.  You're the Messiah.  We understand this miracle is the final evidence."  If you were willing, you had plenty to believe.

And by the way, the importance of this miracle should be noted.  There are only two miracles in the gospel accounts in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  There are only two miracles recorded in all four gospels, just two, this one and the resurrection. This is an important one.  All the writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, record this.  Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9, John 6.  And each gospel writer who deals with this miracle, this great event, records it as a climactic feature in the Lord's ministry.  As I said, from this point on, all the writers say His focus turns toward His death.  And in the time remaining, after this miracle, He does teach the crowds occasionally but most of His focus is on the twelve as He puts the training of the twelve into high gear and intensifies it.

Well the miracle itself is so monumental.  I mean, to just create food and have it coming out of your hands. It isn't that the food appeared in front of everybody, it appeared out of His hands and He gave it to the twelve and the twelve distributed it.  To just stand there and do that is so staggering. It is so inarguable that the people concluded, according to John 6, that He was the prophet, harking back to where God promises the prophet that would come, a messianic prophecy.  He is the Messiah.  And it says, "The crowd wanted to take Him by force and make Him king."  What would that mean?  A coup. A coup.  They wanted to grab Jesus, take Him by force, get an army together and storm the palace of Herod Antipas, who ruled Galilee, a coup.  They wanted to topple Herod Antipas and put Jesus in as king.  Why they couldn't think of any more wonderful thing than that.  He's the Messiah.  Let's have His kingdom.  What is the kingdom?  No sickness and free food.  That's how materialistic they were.  We don't have any concept of that, have absolutely any concept of the difficulty that most of the world has gone through in human history, and most of it even goes through today to get a meal.  You pull up to the little box and you tell somebody what you want, and if it's not there in five minutes, you get it for nothing.  Most of the world can't even conceive of that.  The battle to eat is most of existence. Somebody who can create food, that's the ultimate welfare state.  Let's make Him king.  Let's overthrow the hated, non-Jewish, Herodian dynasty, put Jesus in as king. We'll all be healthy and we'll have all the food we can eat.

They were so superficial, by the way, that the day after the miracle, when Jesus went back to Capernaum, He went back by boat, He got out of the boat, they were there again.  And what were they saying, "Breakfast time.  Dinner last night was unbelievable.  We're ready for breakfast."  He said to them, "You seek Me because you want the food."  So even though the crowd was fickle, Jesus was gracious and generous and demonstrated His massive power in this miracle, so massive that they concluded He was the Messiah and it was time to force the kingdom.

Now there are a lot of ways to look at the story.  Let's turn to the story itself starting in verse 10.  But what I see in this... Obviously there's a demonstration of power here in the miracle. That goes without saying, and we'll get to that next week.  But what I want you to see in this, what really comes through to me in this is the compassion of God, the compassion of God.  I've said this to you before, and I keep repeating it because it has to be repeated.  It's everywhere.  The miracles of Jesus were demonstrations of divine power to prove that He was God.  But at the same time, the miracles of Jesus were virtually, all of them, connected to some expression of compassion, to demonstrate the compassionate heart of God.  The miracles of healing had compassion on those who were ill.  The miracles of resurrection had compassion on those who mourned the loss of a dead one.  The miracles of casting out demons were compassionate miracles for those who were tormented.  The miracles that Jesus did demonstrated the compassion of God.  As I said before, He could have done a lot of miracles. He could have proved He was God doing all kinds of tricks, sleight of hand, the magic kind of things that you can imagine and not imagine.  But instead, all His miracles were categorically within the framework of demonstrations of compassion on human suffering.  And this is to show the heart of God that breaks over the pain that is in the world because of the effects of sin.  God is compassionate.  And that's what you see.  Even in the miracle of feeding the 5,000, He feeds them because they're hungry.  It's just one meal and it's just one day, but God cares. He cares.  You can't ever divorce the power of Christ from the compassion of Christ because the two are in partnership all the way through His ministry.  We know that God is powerful. We also know He's compassionate because we look at Jesus and that's what we see.  He understands human need.  He understands human pain.  He understands human suffering and He cares.

So, let's kind of look at the text that way.  First of all, let's see that our Lord was sensitive to the need for rest. He was sensitive to the need for rest.  Verse 10, "When the apostles returned..." Now remember, they had been out on a short-term mission. Two by two He had sent them. They had preached and He had given them the power to do miracles, cast out demons, healings, raise the dead.  And so they came back.  And after they had come back in verse 10, they gave an account to Him of all they had done.  So they met with Jesus, probably at Capernaum because that was sort of the headquarters.  They had been scattered all over Galilee for a number of weeks and they came back and gave report.

And then it says in verse 10, "Taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida."  We don't have any details about the account they gave. It's not important.  They just told Him that they had done what He told them to do.  He had given them power to heal, given them the message to preach.  They did that.  But, you know, I know this, that Jesus was so beleaguered by the crowd that He couldn't get away, couldn't escape, He couldn't get rest.  I imagine He barely had time to eat Himself because He could never get rid of the crowd.  If you can heal, and cast out demons, and raise dead people, and you are preaching the wonderful good news of God, you're going to draw a crowd.  They drew a crowd.  It must have been a wearying, taxing time.  They were staying in the homes of people.  Remember they were instructed to go and stay wherever somebody would let them stay and eat whatever they gave them to eat and not carry anything but trust the Lord for everything day by day.  And so it would be a very difficult and challenging time.  And they would come back already weary.

And Mark fills that in for us.  In Mark's account of the same event, Mark says, "Jesus said to them, 'Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.'" Jesus wanted to take them away just to give them some rest.  "For there were many people coming and going and they didn't even have time to eat," so says Mark 6:31.  They didn't even have time for a meal, let alone sleep.  They're worn out.  They've been weeks of this and it's exhausting.  And Jesus says, "You guys need some time for rest."   Their experience on their short-term mission had been wearing and wearying and when they got back, they just ran into this huge crowd in Capernaum and it was the same kind of situation.  And apparently they still maintained that power to do those miracles and so they were doing them again and drawing the people to them.  And so, this thing was bigger than it had ever been.  They couldn't even eat.  And it just shows us again how sensitive God is to the simplest things of life.  He cares that they rest.  So simple and yet how profoundly it shows us the sensitivity of our great High Priest who is touched with the feelings of our infirmities.  Back in chapter 8 verse 23 Jesus got in a little boat and He fell asleep and He fell asleep and slept through a storm because He was so worn out.  You need to rest.

I'm so glad the Lord understands that, because sometimes you might feel guilty if you rest.  You've just got to keep doing it and ministering all the time. The Lord understands there's time for rest.  You need refreshment, you need your body to be restored and replenished.  Sleep is a good thing, get some.  Have some food.  Take your rest.  Be replenished.  The Lord understands that.  He is a merciful High Priest.  He knows what it is to be weary. He's been weary.  He knows what it is to be tired. He's been tired.  He knows what it is to need some quiet.  He knows what it is to be secluded.

I was asked one time by a friend of mine, "Do you get lonely?"

And I said, "No, I don't think I get lonely.  I don't experience loneliness as an emotion or feeling."

He said, "Then do you mind being alone?  Do you like being alone?"

And I said...I had never been asked that, and so I said, "Well yeah, actually I do. I do. I do enjoy being alone."

And he kind of laughed, because he's a preacher also.  And he said, "Yeah, I understand that."

And I said, "Well you'll understand this, then, that if I'm not alone I haven't got anything to say than when I'm in a crowd." 

I mean the only way I can ever, ever come to you with anything to say is if I spent a lot more time by myself because I don't accomplish anything productive in terms of understanding the Word of God and preparing to preach in a group.  But it's not just that, there's something about the solitude of that intercession, refreshment, quiet, peace when most of your life is in a group, in a large group.  And most of the time your life is pulled and torn and pushed and shoved because of all the needs that are coming.  And obviously I can't heal anybody, raise the dead, or cast out demons.  But because I'm a teacher and because there are people who need teaching and people who have questions, you know, you understand the need for rest.  And I've learned that that's something the Lord wants me to do, that He's sensitive to that, that He knows I need that time to recuperate and recover and be restored.  And pretty soon I'm going to get some of that.  I haven't had any for three weeks.  He understands that I'm so grateful that the simple things in life like a little bit of rest, He understands.  So that's why He did what He did, taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself.  The whole idea is I'm going alone and you're coming with Me.

And He decided that the place to go was Bethsaida.  We don't know exactly where it is, can't find any ruins that identify that place.  But we know a little about it.  It was actually called Bethsaida Julius.  It was a fishing village on the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee and very important to note it was outside Galilee.   It was on the northeast shore of the sea, but the northeast corner over there, actually got into an area called Perea.  You left Galilee, you got in an area called Perea.  What was important about that was, that wasn't under the control of Herod.  Herod was a wicked, volatile, murderous guy who had already executed John the Baptist by chopping his head off.  And now he's looking for Jesus.  Well Jesus never allowed Herod to find Him and He decided that it would be judicious and wise if He's going to do this massive, climactic miracle, not to do it under Herod's nose in Galilee, so He decided He'd go into Bethsaida which was in the territory of Philip the tetrarch, the brother of Herod, one of the four rulers under whom Israel was divided after Herod the Great.  Well they didn't exactly go into the village, but they went into a secluded place, an isolated place, as the text indicates, near the little village of Bethsaida.

Well, Bethsaida was obviously a non-descript little town, but it does have importance for a couple of reasons.  And I can't leave that. A couple of reasons that it's important are: the fact that, first of all, some of the apostles were from there. Peter and Andrew, Philip and probably Nathanael, according to John 1:43 and 44 were from there.  So of all of the places in the world where the Lord might have picked apostles, He picks four of them out of this little tiny village called Bethsaida.  By the way, it was named by Philip the tetrarch for the daughter of Augustus Caesar, so it bore her name, Bethsaida.  But anyway, this little town, which was probably a fishing town, just set back a little bit from the shore of the Sea of Galilee wouldn't have had any note in history had it not been for the four apostles coming from that, four out of twelve, pretty remarkable for one little village.

But there was even more, and this was the sad part.  Turn to Luke 10 verse 13.  In Luke 10 verse 13 Jesus is pronouncing a curse here and He says this, "Woe to you, Chorazin." Woe means damnation. It is literally a permanent curse. "Woe to you, Chorazin." And then this sad thing: "Woe to you, Bethsaida."  That's such a sad thing.  I mean, how amazing, a little town, just this little village, little fishing village on the northeast shore of Galilee and four of their young guys, four of the young men from their little town are the apostles of the Messiah, the long awaited Messiah, been awaited for since the promise of Genesis 3:15, that a seed of a woman would come and bruise the serpent's head, all human history waits for this and when He finally comes and picks only twelve for the unique role of apostleship, four of them come from this little town.  You would have thought that little town would have been so thrilled, so ecstatic that they would have embraced not only those four and the message they preached and the miracles they did, but the Messiah they represented.  Well they didn't.

Furthermore, they saw the most quantitatively massive miracle that Jesus ever did, in fact the most massive miracle ever done apart from creation and the Flood.  The biggest thing ever done was done right by their town and they didn't believe.  And they didn't come and receive the Messiah.  And they didn't repent.  And they didn't confess their sins.  And they didn't ask for forgiveness and put their faith in the Son of God.  They didn't do it.  And so He says, "Woe to you Chorazin," because they were guilty of the same, but the miracle of the feeding hadn't been done in their town.   And then He says, "Woe to you Bethsaida." And here's how bad it is, "for if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, which occurred in you" — and miracles is plural, it wasn't just the feeding of the crowd, because you'll see from the text of Luke 9 He also did healings that day and probably on other days, and probably there were miracles of healing done there by Peter, Andrew, Philip and Nathanael who probably went back or some of them went back to their town — "If the miracles that had been performed in Tyre and Sidon instead of in you, Tyre and Sidon would have repented long ago, put on sack cloth and ashes."

Boy, that's an indictment.  Tyre and Sidon epitomized paganism to Galilean Jews.  Tyre and Sidon, they were Gentile places, historic places where there was Baal worship.  They had already been destroyed by God once.  Jeremiah chapter 25 verse 22, Jeremiah 47 verse 4 talks about God's destruction of that area long ago.  They were already under God's big guns for their idolatry.  And Tyre and Sidon were reprehensible to the Jews.  They hated them.  They were seaports, people descended from the Phoenicians who traversed the Mediterranean and brought back all the immorality, all the idolatry, all the violence, all the profanity, the pride, the greed, the injustice, the vices that they collected all over the Mediterranean and they were part and parcel of life in Tyre and Sidon.  And yet Jesus said in the judgment it's going to be better for them than it's going to be for Bethsaida.  When the Great White Throne Judgment comes, when all the ungodly of all the ages are brought out of the graves and their spirits are brought before the living God at the Great White Throne Judgment, the people who lived in Tyre and Sidon and lived godless lives are going to be better off than the people who lived in Bethsaida who rejected Jesus Christ.

And I'm telling you something, people, that's very often the case.  The greatest amount of eternal judgment is going to belong to the people who were the most obstinately religious.  I know there's an attitude today that says, you know, people in religions are all worshiping the same God, we've talked about that, wider mercy, let's get inclusive, pagan people, you know, they're all going to end up there because they're well meaning and they believe in God in their own way and they're all going to go there.  And I'm telling you, when the judgment comes, the judgment of God will be worse on religious people than it will be on the outright pagan people if those religious people were exposed to the truth and rejected it.  And that's what you have in Bethsaida, self-righteous, self-content, traditional, ceremonial, legalistic, apostate Jews who refuse the message of the true indictment.  It's the same thing in Nazareth.  You remember when Jesus went to Nazareth and told them if they didn't acknowledge they were poor, prisoners, blind and oppressed, that they didn't acknowledge their spiritual poverty, their spiritual bankruptcy, their spiritual blindness, their spiritual guilt, if they didn't acknowledge that they were cut off from God and repent, they couldn't be saved.  And they tried to throw Jesus off a cliff, even though they were His relatives and His friends.  That was the issue.  Bethsaida saw what nobody in the world ever saw, a power display the likes of which no one had ever seen.  And when those people who are now dead show up at the Great White Throne Judgment, they're going to hear from God a far worse judgment than people anywhere in the world.  Isn't that amazing to think about it?  This city by the very words of Jesus along with Chorazin and Capernaum may receive the severest eternal judgment.  The people alive at the time of Jesus may be waiting the severest eternal judgment and they were extremely religious people.   In fact, Jesus said they would have repented if they would have seen what you've seen, those people who are real pagans in Tyre and Sidon.  Sad city.

Well anyway, let's go back to chapter 9.  Jesus went there.  That was about four miles across the corner of the lake by boat.  The lake kind of, you know, has a like turn in a track; it's kind of curved at the top. You could sail across there about four miles.  And so that's what they did.  And Jesus was seeking rest for Himself and for His apostles.  But then when they got there, the need for divine truth overtook the need for rest.  Well they got a little bit of a rest, however long the boat ride took. That's a little rest.  And they probably had a little picnic as they went.  In verse 11, "But the multitudes were aware of this," so there they are.  When you can heal people, you can't get rid of them.  "The multitudes were aware of this, and followed Him."  It’s an eight-mile run. This was the first Capernaum 8K run, or whatever, a little Capernaum marathon.  You can just see those people.  Somebody on the shore said, "I saw them go, I saw them go, I know where they're going."  Listen to how Mark records it.  Mark chapter 6 will...I'll read a couple of verses.  Verse 30, "The apostles gathered together with Jesus, reported them all they done and taught.  He said, 'Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while.'" That was the whole idea, let's rest.  "So they went away in a boat, verse 32, to a lonely place by themselves.  And the people saw them going and many recognized them," which means they were trying to be unrecognizable.   "And they ran there together on foot from all the cities and got there ahead of them."  Oh, they're pulling the little boat into the shore and here they are; thousands of them, all panting from having run eight miles.

Why were they there?  Why did they come running over there?  John tells us, John 6:2, "Because they were seeing the signs which He was performing on those who were sick."  It was all about the healings.  It was all about the healings.  They were shallow soil, folks.  You remember Jesus said there are all kinds of soils?  The good soil is pretty rare.  Most of the soil is either hard soil, shallow soil, or weedy soil that never produces any fruit.  They were back. There they were.  We want more healing, more healing.  If that's all you do, if that's all you have to give you're going to draw people for the wrong reason.  By the way, the next day after the miracle, Jesus got back into the boat with the disciples, went back to Capernaum and they were all there.  And as I told you, they were ready for breakfast and Jesus said, "Truly, truly I say to you, you seek Me not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the food."  So in one day they went from following Him for the miracles, to following Him for the food.  It was superficial either way.  But you can understand why they wanted to make Him king and have a coup.  You know, that's the health, wealth and prosperity deal right there without regard for their true condition of sin.  That's the danger in all that terrible sort of ministry that goes on today with the so-called healers and health-wealth preachers.  When Jesus got them together, He gave them divine truth.  That's just not what happens in the current contemporary thing, you promise people health, wealth, prosperity, well-being, all their needs met. Even the seeker-friendly people are guilty of that.  And so why do people come?  They come for the well-being.  They come for the free food.  They come for what they want, what satisfies their felt needs.

You know, you wouldn't be unkind to Jesus if He said, "Hey, I'm not going to deal with this, let's get back in the boat and go somewhere else."  You'd understand that. I would understand that.  But that's not the heart of God and it says in verse 11, "The multitudes who were aware of this followed Him." We read they're waiting on the shore, it says, "And welcoming them..."  Welcoming them. Why?  I mean, why does He keep exposing Himself to the shallowness?  Because He knows there is some good soil, right?  Why?  Mark 6:34, "Because He had compassion on the multitude, because He saw them as sheep not having a (what?) shepherd."  They didn't have any shepherds.  False religion has no shepherds.  And so, the people are just lost, lost.  They don't have any leaders who would lead them to green pastures and still waters.  They didn't have any leaders that would bind up their wounds and take care of them.  He just had so much compassion on them.  That's the heart of God, splagchnizomai, you know, He just welcomed them, He just received them, opened His arms up and took them in.  Sure it was food they wanted after today, right now it was miracles they wanted, but it was truth they needed.  And so it says in verse 11, "He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God."  Always the kingdom of God, always the kingdom of God, never the kingdom of men, never the political issue, always the kingdom of God, whether He's chapter 4 verse 43, chapter 8 verses 1 and 2, chapter 11 verse 20 here, in Acts after the resurrection, forty days, He spoke concerning the kingdom of God.  Always that God has a kingdom, that it's a kingdom of righteousness, that you can enter that kingdom if you confess your sins, repent, and believe in Me, that's always His message that the kingdom is eternal and that by faith in Jesus Christ you'll be rescued from the kingdom of Satan, the kingdom of darkness, and be placed into the kingdom of God.  That's the message and Jesus gave the message.  He has compassion on their souls as well as their body.  He has...This is the compassion of God. It even touches us at the point of our need for rest and it goes profoundly to the other and more important issue of our need for truth.  Jesus was so compassionate that even their shallowness, even their superficiality, even their indulgence couldn't stop Him from caring.  He cared that people had rest when they were weary, and He also, and more importantly, cared that they had the truth when they were ignorant.

And then thirdly, just as we just kind of introduced the miracle, He had compassion on their need for deliverance.  And so at the end of verse 11 it says: "And curing those who had need of healing."  He never gets to the point where He says, "You know, I've just had enough of this.  I'm not doing anymore of these." They needed it so He did it.  Matthew 14:14, Matthew says this, "And when He went ashore He saw a great multitude," and here's the same expression, "He felt compassion for them and healed their sick."  He felt compassion for them, as sheep without a shepherd, so He taught them.  He felt compassion for them in their suffering so He healed them.

Human ignorance draws the compassion of God.  Human weariness draws the compassion of God.  Human suffering draws the compassion of God.  Literally the verb in Matthew 14:14 — and it says He felt compassion — is esplanchnisthē. He felt it in the gut.  It churned in His stomach.  You know what it is to have that kind of anxiety?  It hurt Him.  This is the compassion of God.  He cares about our physical weariness.  He cares about our suffering.  And most importantly, He cares about our eternal souls.  And the message in the healings is compassion.  And the message in the little trip to get the disciples away is compassion.  And the message in the proclamation of divine truth is compassion; compassion on a weary servant, compassion on a suffering person's life, and compassion, most of all, on an ignorant soul.  And if you are to be a representative of Jesus Christ, if you are to belong to Christ, if you are to name His name, then you ought to walk the way He walked.  And what the world needs to see from us is this same kind of compassion.  We need to be those who understand weariness, those who understand suffering, those who come with compassion to both of those, even though they're on a temporal level, but who most of all are consumed with compassion for the souls of people.

I don't go anywhere in the world without thinking that and wandering around all over Italy, Sicily, southern Italy, northern Italy, big cities, small cities, towns, villages, everywhere we went, you just keep looking and seeing people, sheep without a shepherd.  A whole religious system, but no shepherds, lost sheep, and your heart is just wracked with compassion.  You want to proclaim the truth.  I can't proclaim the truth.  Oh, they want to go on the radio. They're looking for Giovanni MacArthur somewhere who can, you know, be my voice over there and teach the Word of God.  But the best we can do is train the leaders who can, train the people who can.  So we'll try to find some real shepherds for these places in the world, but all over the world, you understand that, as Christians that's the range of compassion, it goes all the way from the small little issues like weariness to the bigger issues of life, like suffering and sickness and death to the really big issue of life which is our eternal soul.  This is what drew the compassion of Christ. This is what should draw our compassion.  More next week as we get to the miracle itself.

Father, thank You, for inviting us into the history of this incredible account by putting all of it in the Scriptures.  We thank You that we have such complete account of it in the four gospels so that we get a full understanding of this monumental event.  Before we look at the explosion of power, before we talk about that, how we are almost stunned to come face to face with Your compassion and even the miracle of power is...simply a way to give people a meal and we're stunned by the fact that so much power would be expressed just to feed some hungry people.  But more than that, to prove to them beyond question that You could feed their hungry souls.  That was the message, that You could give them eternal rest, eternal healing, eternal truth and that the hungering and thirsting that was deep in their hearts could forever be satisfied.  And we thank You that You are a God of compassion.  We thank You that You are not like the gods that men and demon invent, that You are a God by nature a loving God, a saving God, a compassionate God, and that's manifest in Jesus Christ, who even wept over the suffering, physical and spiritual, that He saw.  Give us His heart as we represent Him in the world today.  We pray in His name.  Amen.

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Unleashing God’s Truth, One Verse at a Time
Since 1969


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